Obama takes blame for Detroit attack

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The Independent Online

PRESIDENT BARACK Obama was expected last night to take "full responsibility" for the intelligence lapses made in the run-up to the thwarted Christmas Day bombing on a plane bound for Detroit, apparently turning back pressure that has grown this week for heads to roll.

The White House acknowledged earlier yesterday that the initial reviews of the circumstances of the near-disaster aboard Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam would confirm that several clues had been missed about the suspect in the case, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The American public will feel "a certain shock" at the shortcomings, the National Security Advisor, James Jones, warned.

Front and centre was the new revelation that it was only during a routine screening of names of passengers as the plane was already in the air over the Atlantic that staff in Washington first noted that Abdulmutallab was potentially of interest. They decided he required extra questioning upon landing.

All this and other details of red flags that went unnoticed were contained in a declassified version of a review ordered by Mr Obama earlier this week that was made public last night.

By confronting publicly the ways in which the post-9/11 attack failed on this occasion, Mr Obama was hoping to inoculate his administration from further fallout from the incident. The case of Abdulmutallab and the near-catastrophe close to Detroit has dominated headlines in the US since Christmas, only occasionally making way for news of another intelligence catastrophe – the killing of seven CIA employees on 30 December in Afghanistan by a Jordanian informant who turned out to be an al-Qa'ida double agent.

Mr Obama needs to reassure the American public that his eye is now firmly trained on anti-terror measures, and his White House presentation last night was due to include multiple steps hopefully to close holes in the system. But he is also anxious to redirect attention to his healthcare reform effort, which is edging towards final resolution on Capitol Hill, and to his job-creation programme.